Want to look better than natural on your next video call?


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

Tips & tricks for better video meetings

If you know Point Nine a bit, you probably know that we’ve always worked as a distributed team and have always had an a̶w̶k̶w̶a̶r̶d̶l̶y unusually geo-agnostic approach to making seed investments. When Pawel and I started P9 almost ten years ago, Pawel was in Berlin, while I was on a sabbatical on Barbados. The first investments that we did together included startups in Canada (Clio) and New Zealand (Vend). We did open an office in Berlin later on but have always kept our remote-friendly culture and our geo-agnostic investment strategy.

One thing that this entails is that I spend a lot of time in video conferences. As I find video meetings with poor audio/video quality really exhausting (and love tinkering around), I’ve become a bit of a go-to-guy for video conferencing technology in my social and business circles.

With the entire world moving into social distancing about six months ago it became clear that if anything I’ll spend more rather than less time in video meetings in the future, which I considered to be a great excuse to upgrade my video conferencing setup. The reactions to the latest upgrade ranged from „looks super high def, almost like a TV studio“ and „looks like a professional photoshoot, is this a DSLR?“ to „this looks almost fake, somehow makes you look better than natural“ (thank you). There’s no shortage of articles and guides on video conferencing, but since so many people asked me about my setup I thought it would be worth sharing a few details and tips with a broader audience.

1. Camera

Inspired by Garry Tan’s post about the topic, I did a bit of research and learned that any entry-level DSLR (or comparable mirrorless camera) produces much better video quality than almost any webcam that you’ll find on the market. The reason is that DSLRs or similar mirrorless cameras come with much higher-quality lenses that provide more contrast, are much better at handling different lighting situations and let you control your video’s depth of field.

If you apply a shallow depth of field, you can put the subject (in this case yourself) in focus and make the background a little blurred. You might know this effect, called „bokeh“, from the (IMO very impressive) portrait feature of modern iPhones. Webcams, in contrast, have a very deep depth of field, so everything in the image or video is equally sharp and clear, which doesn’t look great.

As you can see in the screenshot below, the difference is quite dramatic. Note that the right part was taken with a Logitech C270 HD, which is a really cheap webcam. If you use a better webcam, e.g. a Logitech Brio, the difference to the DSLR won’t be quite as stark.

Left: Canon EOS 250D. Right: Logitech C270 HD. Same lighting.

The downside of using a DSLR as a webcam is the significantly higher price (unless you compare it to a super high-end webcam) and the fact that the solution is a bit less plug & play than using a standard webcam.

If you want to go for it, here’s what you need:

(1) A DSLR or mirrorless camera that

  • provides “clean HDMI” output (so that you get a clean video stream without the camera UI)
  • you can set to run permanently (some cameras have a 30-minute recording limit)
  • can be connected to a power plug (for uninterrupted power supply)

I bought a Canon EOS 250D and a “dummy battery” that lets you connect the camera to a power socket.

(2) A lens with a focal length (or zoom range) that fits your room setup (i.e. the distance between you and the camera).

I have an 18–55mm zoom lens, but I’m still toying with the idea of getting a fixed-length lens with a wider aperture (these lenses are super expensive, which kept me from buying one so far — Moore’s law unfortunately doesn’t seem to apply to optical lenses!).

(3) A tripod

(4) A video capturing device like the Elgato Camlink

Canon has recently released a new software that lets you use some Canon cameras as webcams without any additional hardware. If this works well you may not need the Elgato Camlink.

Is it worth it?

It depends. For most people, a good webcam (with good lighting) should be good enough, but if you are doing enterprise sales meetings over video, webinars with customers, or presentations at virtual conferences, the professional appearance might be worth spending some of the money that you’re currently saving on flights. 🙂 Another factor is, of course, if you already happen to own a DSLR that you can use as a webcam, since the DSLR is by far the most expensive part of the setup.

Another alternative to consider is using your smartphone as a webcam. Modern iPhones, for example, have much better cameras than most webcams, and there are several apps (e.g. EpocCam) that let you use e.g. an iPhone as a webcam.

2. Light

The Elgato Key Light is a cool light, but almost any bright light will do the trick.

Whether you go for a DSLR or stick to your webcam, good lighting makes a big difference.

Natural sunlight is best, but since I do lots of calls late at night, I bought an Elgato Key Light. What’s nice about the Elgato is that you can control the color temperature and brightness from your phone, but there are many other cheaper alternatives that will do the job.

Portrait photographers like to use three light sources to (literally) present you in the best light, but unless you really want to turn your home office into a TV studio you don’t need to go that far. Just make sure that you have a bright light directed at your face and that there’s no bright light behind you.

3. Camera position

In order to look someone in the eyes in a video meeting, your camera would have to be placed in front of your screen, close to where your counterparts’ eyes are located on the screen. Not ideal because then a part of your screen would be obscured by the camera.

Since I like to stand up during long video meetings, I bought a motorized tripod head that lets you rotate and tilt the camera with a remote control.

There are a few interesting technological approaches to solving this problem, e.g. having a camera integrated into the screen (not yet technically feasible AFAIK); using software to “correct” the position of your eyes in your video stream (a bit creepy?); or (mis)using a teleprompter (this looks like a cool DIY project).

There’s no simple, perfect solution, but if you make sure that your camera is as close to your screen as possible you’re fine. If you have enough space to sit 1–2 meters away from your screen, you can also try placing your camera in front of the screen. That’s what I’m doing, as you can see in the pictures here.

I use an old Mac Mini and two TVs for (almost) all my video meetings. This way I can see people and a presentation in full-screen and use the laptop and monitor on my desk e.g. to look at documents.

4. Sound

Getting great audio quality in “hybrid meetings”, where some people are in the same physical room and others join over video can be a real pain. In my experience, trying to capture the voices of a group of people who are sitting around a table using one device in the middle of the table just doesn’t work very well, even if you use a beamforming microphone that’s supposed to automatically aim at the active speaker. It took us a lot of time, trial & error, and ultimately a mixer with ten table microphones to solve that issue in our office.

In our office, we ended up getting a mixer and installing an array of ten microphones.

Fortunately, it’s much easier for remote-only meetings where each participant uses his or her own computer. If everyone plugs in a simple headset (like the EarPods that used to come with the iPhone) and goes on mute if there’s a lot of background noise, you’ll get excellent audio quality.

Whether you go for an in-ear USB headset, over-the-ear or something else, make sure there’s a microphone that can be placed close to your mouth.

If you prefer a wireless headset, make sure to get one with an external microphone that can be placed very close to your mouth. Based on my experience these microphones are much better at capturing your voice than “true wireless” headphones or other headsets where the microphone is integrated into the earpiece.

FWIW, I’ve experienced a lot of connection issues with Bluetooth headsets on my Mac mini. If you experience the same you may want to go for a DECT headset or one that comes with a USB dongle that has a separate Bluetooth chip.

When I don’t want to wear a headset, I currently use the Jabra Speak 710 but a podcast microphone or a lavalier mic would probably provide much clearer audio. As you can see, my journey towards the perfect A/V setup isn’t over yet.


Want to look better than natural on your next video call? was originally published in Point Nine Land on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Want to look better than natural on your next video call?


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

Tips & tricks for better video meetings

Meet Louis Coppey, Partner at Point Nine


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

From truffle pig to equal partner in four short years

I recently wrote that once in a while, we see a startup and know after the first call that we just have to invest in this company. Similarly, every now and then, when I interview a candidate for a portfolio company, I’m so impressed by the candidate that I’ll send the founder a WhatsApp message with something like “This is our Head of Sales. Let’s close her immediately!!! 👊🏽” before the interview is even finished.

It’s very rare, but when it happens, it’s an almost magical moment. One such moment occurred to me about four years ago when I interviewed Louis for an Associate role at Point Nine. At that time, we had been looking for our next Truffle Pig for a few months and had a number of very promising candidates on our shortlist. Before my call with Louis, I thought that his engineering background, along with the fact that he went to MIT and worked as a summer analyst at Alven Capital in Paris, made him an interesting candidate who we might want to add to our shortlist. After the call I knew: Our search was over.

I unfortunately couldn’t find my notes from that interview in our applicant tracking system (looks like we’re more GDPR compliant than I thought 😅), but I did find an email from back then:

What was it that made Louis stand out? It’s hard to describe in a few words, but I think it was the depth of his thinking, the level of his intellectual curiosity, and his reflectiveness that impressed all of us the most.

Long story short, a week after our first call Louis got on a plane from Boston to Barcelona, where we happened to do company offsite. A few months later Louis joined us as an Associate.

From his first day at P9, he kept surpassing our already high expectations. Only six weeks into the job he led his first investment, Qwilr. Qwilr is based in Australia, by the way, which goes to show that Louis quickly adopted our remote-friendly approach to seed investing.

The fact that his first investment was down under didn’t prevent Brother Louie (one of h̶i̶s my favorite nicknames) from spending a good part of his time in Paris, though. Commuting between Berlin, Paris (and Zoom), it wouldn’t take long until he started to develop a reputation as one of the smartest c̶r̶o̶i̶s̶s̶a̶n̶t̶s cookies in the Parisian ecosystem and beyond. I don’t know how he did it, but only a couple of months into the job, he was already seeing almost every deal that took place in Paris. I remember that whenever I heard about an interesting startup in Paris I would ask Louis if he knew about the company. The answer was always “yes” (along with a concise assessment of what the company does and why we should or should not pursue the opportunity).

While tirelessly holding the P9 flag in Paris, Looping Louie (my 2nd most favorite nickname) also, amongst many other things, sharpened our understanding of AI and B2B marketplaces, led our investment in PlayPlay, and played a crucial role in PlayPlay’s seed-to-Series A journey. He also led our investment in cargo.one, and, most recently, our first investment in Armenia. In four short years, Louis has shown an extraordinary ability to spot opportunities and build deep relationships with founders, while staying as humble and curious as he was in that first interview.

Pawel and I are delighted to welcome Louis to our equal partnership. At 29 years, Louis is much earlier in his career than Pawel and I. If I look at what he has achieved in the last four years and extrapolate from that into the next 15, my only fear is that there won’t be enough unicorns-in-the-making to keep him busy. 😉

If you’re an entrepreneur and you have the chance to get Louis on your side, I can imagine only one response: This is our investor/partner! Let’s close him immediately!!! 👊🏽


Meet Louis Coppey, Partner at Point Nine was originally published in Point Nine Land on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet Louis Coppey, Partner at Point Nine


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

From truffle pig to equal partner in four short years

I recently wrote that once in a while, we see a startup and know after the first call that we just have to invest in this company. Similarly, every now and then, when I interview a candidate for a portfolio company, I’m so impressed by the candidate that I’ll send the founder a WhatsApp message with something like “This is our Head of Sales. Let’s close her immediately!!! 👊🏽” before the interview is even finished.

It’s very rare, but when it happens, it’s an almost magical moment. One such moment occurred to me about four years ago when I interviewed Louis for an Associate role at Point Nine. At that time, we had been looking for our next Truffle Pig for a few months and had a number of very promising candidates on our shortlist. Before my call with Louis, I thought that his engineering background, along with the fact that he went to MIT and worked as a summer analyst at Alven Capital in Paris, made him an interesting candidate who we might want to add to our shortlist. After the call I knew: Our search was over.

I unfortunately couldn’t find my notes from that interview in our applicant tracking system (looks like we’re more GDPR compliant than I thought 😅), but I did find an email from back then:

What was it that made Louis stand out? It’s hard to describe in a few words, but I think it was the depth of his thinking, the level of his intellectual curiosity, and his reflectiveness that impressed all of us the most.

Long story short, a week after our first call Louis got on a plane from Boston to Barcelona, where we happened to do company offsite. A few months later Louis joined us as an Associate.

From his first day at P9, he kept surpassing our already high expectations. Only six weeks into the job he led his first investment, Qwilr. Qwilr is based in Australia, by the way, which goes to show that Louis quickly adopted our remote-friendly approach to seed investing.

The fact that his first investment was down under didn’t prevent Brother Louie (one of h̶i̶s my favorite nicknames) from spending a good part of his time in Paris, though. Commuting between Berlin, Paris (and Zoom), it wouldn’t take long until he started to develop a reputation as one of the smartest c̶r̶o̶i̶s̶s̶a̶n̶t̶s cookies in the Parisian ecosystem and beyond. I don’t know how he did it, but only a couple of months into the job, he was already seeing almost every deal that took place in Paris. I remember that whenever I heard about an interesting startup in Paris I would ask Louis if he knew about the company. The answer was always “yes” (along with a concise assessment of what the company does and why we should or should not pursue the opportunity).

While tirelessly holding the P9 flag in Paris, Looping Louie (my 2nd most favorite nickname) also, amongst many other things, sharpened our understanding of AI and B2B marketplaces, led our investment in PlayPlay, and played a crucial role in PlayPlay’s seed-to-Series A journey. He also led our investment in cargo.one, and, most recently, our first investment in Armenia. In four short years, Louis has shown an extraordinary ability to spot opportunities and build deep relationships with founders, while staying as humble and curious as he was in that first interview.

Pawel and I are delighted to welcome Louis to our equal partnership. At 29 years, Louis is much earlier in his career than Pawel and I. If I look at what he has achieved in the last four years and extrapolate from that into the next 15, my only fear is that there won’t be enough unicorns-in-the-making to keep him busy. 😉

If you’re an entrepreneur and you have the chance to get Louis on your side, I can imagine only one response: This is our investor/partner! Let’s close him immediately!!! 👊🏽


Meet Louis Coppey, Partner at Point Nine was originally published in Point Nine Land on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet Louis Coppey, Partner at Point Nine


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

From truffle pig to equal partner in four short years

I recently wrote that once in a while, we see a startup and know after the first call that we just have to invest in this company. Similarly, every now and then, when I interview a candidate for a portfolio company, I’m so impressed by the candidate that I’ll send the founder a WhatsApp message with something like “This is our Head of Sales. Let’s close her immediately!!! 👊🏽” before the interview is even finished.

It’s very rare, but when it happens, it’s an almost magical moment. One such moment occurred to me about four years ago when I interviewed Louis for an Associate role at Point Nine. At that time, we had been looking for our next Truffle Pig for a few months and had a number of very promising candidates on our shortlist. Before my call with Louis, I thought that his engineering background, along with the fact that he went to MIT and worked as a summer analyst at Alven Capital in Paris, made him an interesting candidate who we might want to add to our shortlist. After the call I knew: Our search was over.

I unfortunately couldn’t find my notes from that interview in our applicant tracking system (looks like we’re more GDPR compliant than I thought 😅), but I did find an email from back then:

What was it that made Louis stand out? It’s hard to describe in a few words, but I think it was the depth of his thinking, the level of his intellectual curiosity, and his reflectiveness that impressed all of us the most.

Long story short, a week after our first call Louis got on a plane from Boston to Barcelona, where we happened to do company offsite. A few months later Louis joined us as an Associate.

From his first day at P9, he kept surpassing our already high expectations. Only six weeks into the job he led his first investment, Qwilr. Qwilr is based in Australia, by the way, which goes to show that Louis quickly adopted our remote-friendly approach to seed investing.

The fact that his first investment was down under didn’t prevent Brother Louie (one of h̶i̶s my favorite nicknames) from spending a good part of his time in Paris, though. Commuting between Berlin, Paris (and Zoom), it wouldn’t take long until he started to develop a reputation as one of the smartest c̶r̶o̶i̶s̶s̶a̶n̶t̶s cookies in the Parisian ecosystem and beyond. I don’t know how he did it, but only a couple of months into the job, he was already seeing almost every deal that took place in Paris. I remember that whenever I heard about an interesting startup in Paris I would ask Louis if he knew about the company. The answer was always “yes” (along with a concise assessment of what the company does and why we should or should not pursue the opportunity).

While tirelessly holding the P9 flag in Paris, Looping Louie (my 2nd most favorite nickname) also, amongst many other things, sharpened our understanding of AI and B2B marketplaces, led our investment in PlayPlay, and played a crucial role in PlayPlay’s seed-to-Series A journey. He also led our investment in cargo.one, and, most recently, our first investment in Armenia. In four short years, Louis has shown an extraordinary ability to spot opportunities and build deep relationships with founders, while staying as humble and curious as he was in that first interview.

Pawel and I are delighted to welcome Louis to our equal partnership. At 29 years, Louis is much earlier in his career than Pawel and I. If I look at what he has achieved in the last four years and extrapolate from that into the next 15, my only fear is that there won’t be enough unicorns-in-the-making to keep him busy. 😉

If you’re an entrepreneur and you have the chance to get Louis on your side, I can imagine only one response: This is our investor/partner! Let’s close him immediately!!! 👊🏽


Meet Louis Coppey, Partner at Point Nine was originally published in Point Nine Land on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Bonjour Louis, boa tarde Ricardo!


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

Introducing two new partners (and a new fund).

We’ve raised a new fund. If your immediate reaction is “so what?” — bingo. Raising a new fund as a VC is not that newsworthy per se. VCs have to raise a new fund every three years or so, just to stay default alive. However, VCs often use fund announcements to t̶a̶l̶k̶ ̶a̶b̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶i̶r̶ ̶l̶a̶t̶e̶s̶t̶ ̶m̶o̶r̶n̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶r̶o̶u̶t̶i̶n̶e̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶s̶h̶o̶w̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶i̶r̶ ̶n̶e̶w̶ ̶P̶a̶t̶a̶g̶o̶n̶i̶a̶ ̶v̶e̶s̶t̶s give an update on the fund’s strategy or additions to the team, so here goes:

(1) We’ve raised €99,999,999.

Someone asked if there were any regulatory reasons for staying below €100 million. Nope. We just like the number 9.

A huge thanks to all of our LPs for their continued trust! 🙏🏼

(2) This is our fifth fund, P9 V.

Our model is pretty much a copy & paste (as one of our LPs likes to put it) of P9 IV, which was pretty much a copy & paste of P9 III. That means we will:

  • Double-down on B2B SaaS and B2B marketplace startups (while occasionally exploring other areas).
  • Stay geo-agnostic (with Europe as our home market, 25–30% US and Canada, and a small percentage in the ROTW).
  • Continue to invest at seed (what we consider v0.9 or the “Point Nine stage”). We’ll occasionally do pre-seed, “Seed II,” or “early Series A” investments.
  • Continue to invest between €0.5 and €2.5 million per company initially and commit to participating in the Series A of all companies.

(3) A bit more about our strategy.

  • We’ve been focused on B2B SaaS and marketplaces at the seed stage for about 12 years, first as individual angel investors, then with Point Nine. During this time we’ve invested in about 100 seed-stage B2B SaaS and marketplace startups. We believe there’s huge value in focus, so don’t expect a Series A or growth fund from us any time soon.
  • When it comes to location, our approach is the exact opposite of our industry and stage focus. We’ve always firmly believed that amazing companies can be started anywhere, and we’ve made investments over Zoom (or Skype, back in the days) since day one. We’ve invested in 28 different countries so far and are excited to add further pins onto our map (having recently added Jerewan, Brussels, and Måløy).
  • Most founders that we’ve backed in the last 12 years w̶e̶r̶e̶ ̶a̶ ̶l̶i̶t̶t̶l̶e̶ ̶r̶o̶u̶g̶h̶ ̶a̶r̶o̶u̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶e̶d̶g̶e̶s̶ (just like us when we started P9) didn’t have a major prior success under their belts when we met them. We‘ll continue to invest in experienced entrepreneurs as well as first-time founders from all walks of life. Unique insights, integrity, and ambition are what matter most to us.

(4) A few words about what founders can expect from us.

As a seed investor in companies like Algolia, Brainly, Chainalysis, Clio, Contentful, Delivery Hero, DocPlanner, Front, Loom, Mambu, Momox, Revolut, Sqreen, Typeform, Westwing, and Zendesk we arguably have one of the highest “seed-to-winner” rates in Europe. 💪🏽

Founders benefit from our track record by:

  • Having a partner on their side who has worked together closely with some of the most successful startups in Europe in their earliest days.
  • Joining the #P9family, an elite community of about 200 P9 founders and alumni that meet at various online and offline events, share a talent pool, and support each other in a multitude of ways.
  • Getting access to the insights, the playbooks, and the network that helped 50+ seed startups from the #P9family raise excellent Series As and later-stage rounds.

When you start a new company, it can feel like the odds are stacked against you (and statistically they are). We obsess about turning them in your favor, and that shows in our numbers. About 55% of the companies that we back at the seed stage raise a $5M+ Series A from an international Tier 1 VC (vs. 40% for the best quartile of seed VCs and 19% for all European seed VCs, according to a Dealroom study).

(5) We’re now four equal partners.

Traditionally, VC firms used to have several layers of partners (with a variety of titles like “Investment Partner,” “Partner,” “General Partner,” “Managing General Partner,” etc.). Some of the most successful VCs like A16Z are built this way. Other firms, most famously Benchmark, are structured more like a jazz band than a traditional pyramid organization.

In Bill Gurley’s words:

“One of Benchmark’s core principles is the power of a fully equal partnership. Every one of our general partners, regardless of track record or seniority, has equal ownership in the firm and an equal stake in its future. We believe that this promotes teamwork, minimizes politics, and most importantly allows us to deliver the power of the entire team to the entrepreneurs we serve. It also allows us to recruit the best possible partner candidate.”

We have always had a lot of admiration for this model. While less scalable, it allows the partners to spend most of their time working with portfolio companies and looking for new investments, which is what we love the most about our jobs. We can’t improve on how Bill expresses it, so let us quote him again:

“We believe that successful early-stage venture investing is just that: a craft. It is a service-oriented business, not an industrial process that can be scaled. It requires investors to work diligently on the boards of startups, providing advice and counsel and supporting the visions and dreams of entrepreneurs.”

About ten years after starting Point Nine, we are thrilled to announce that two up-and-coming stars in the tech industry have joined us as equal partners: Louis Coppey and Ricardo Sequerra Amram.

Louis has been working with us as an Associate for about four years, so if you’re reading this, you most likely know him already. Here’s some more background on his journey at P9 so far and why we’re so excited to add him to our partnership.

Around the same time when Louis joined us, a young Portuguese tech investor, Ricardo Sequerra Amram, landed in the Berlin scene. As an Associate at Cherry Ventures, Ricardo got our attention by hustling his way into the Series A of our portfolio company Rekki, but it would take a few years (and Ricardo and Louis becoming flatmates) until it dawned on us that we should try to recruit him. Check out this post to read more about that story and about what Ricardo brings to P9.

Both Louis and Ricardo have demonstrated an extraordinary ability to spot new companies, develop strong bonds with entrepreneurs, contribute to the tech community, and help early-stage startups beat the odds. At ages 29 and 30, they are significantly earlier in their careers than the two of us. That’s a feature of our equal partnership, not a bug. Our goal was to find the smartest investors with the steepest trajectories, not the ones with the longest track record.

Louis and Ricardo embody the values that we aspire Point Nine to stand for. Both of them have an insatiable intellectual curiosity, a boundless love for technology and entrepreneurship, and, maybe most importantly, are kind, humble human beings who don’t take themselves too seriously.

We couldn’t be more excited to welcome them to our partnership. We’re looking forward to building Point Nine together with you, Ola, Tilman, and the rest of the P9 team in the years and decades to come.

Christoph and Pawel


Bonjour Louis, boa tarde Ricardo! was originally published in Point Nine Land on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Bonjour Louis, boa tarde Ricardo!


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

Introducing two new partners (and a new fund).

We’ve raised a new fund. If your immediate reaction is “so what?” — bingo. Raising a new fund as a VC is not that newsworthy per se. VCs have to raise a new fund every three years or so, just to stay default alive. However, VCs often use fund announcements to t̶a̶l̶k̶ ̶a̶b̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶i̶r̶ ̶l̶a̶t̶e̶s̶t̶ ̶m̶o̶r̶n̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶r̶o̶u̶t̶i̶n̶e̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶s̶h̶o̶w̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶i̶r̶ ̶n̶e̶w̶ ̶P̶a̶t̶a̶g̶o̶n̶i̶a̶ ̶v̶e̶s̶t̶s give an update on the fund’s strategy or additions to the team, so here goes:

(1) We’ve raised €99,999,999.

Someone asked if there were any regulatory reasons for staying below €100 million. Nope. We just like the number 9.

A huge thanks to all of our LPs for their continued trust! 🙏🏼

(2) This is our fifth fund, P9 V.

Our model is pretty much a copy & paste (as one of our LPs likes to put it) of P9 IV, which was pretty much a copy & paste of P9 III. That means we will:

  • Double-down on B2B SaaS and B2B marketplace startups (while occasionally exploring other areas).
  • Stay geo-agnostic (with Europe as our home market, 25–30% US and Canada, and a small percentage in the ROTW).
  • Continue to invest at seed (what we consider v0.9 or the “Point Nine stage”). We’ll occasionally do pre-seed, “Seed II,” or “early Series A” investments.
  • Continue to invest between €0.5 and €2.5 million per company initially and commit to participating in the Series A of all companies.

(3) A bit more about our strategy.

  • We’ve been focused on B2B SaaS and marketplaces at the seed stage for about 12 years, first as individual angel investors, then with Point Nine. During this time we’ve invested in about 100 seed-stage B2B SaaS and marketplace startups. We believe there’s huge value in focus, so don’t expect a Series A or growth fund from us any time soon.
  • When it comes to location, our approach is the exact opposite of our industry and stage focus. We’ve always firmly believed that amazing companies can be started anywhere, and we’ve made investments over Zoom (or Skype, back in the days) since day one. We’ve invested in 28 different countries so far and are excited to add further pins onto our map (having recently added Jerewan, Brussels, and Måløy).
  • Most founders that we’ve backed in the last 12 years w̶e̶r̶e̶ ̶a̶ ̶l̶i̶t̶t̶l̶e̶ ̶r̶o̶u̶g̶h̶ ̶a̶r̶o̶u̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶e̶d̶g̶e̶s̶ (just like us when we started P9) didn’t have a major prior success under their belts when we met them. We‘ll continue to invest in experienced entrepreneurs as well as first-time founders from all walks of life. Unique insights, integrity, and ambition are what matter most to us.

(4) A few words about what founders can expect from us.

As a seed investor in companies like Algolia, Brainly, Chainalysis, Clio, Contentful, Delivery Hero, DocPlanner, Front, Loom, Mambu, Momox, Revolut, Sqreen, Typeform, Westwing, and Zendesk we arguably have one of the highest “seed-to-winner” rates in Europe. 💪🏽

Founders benefit from our track record by:

  • Having a partner on their side who has worked together closely with some of the most successful startups in Europe in their earliest days.
  • Joining the #P9family, an elite community of about 200 P9 founders and alumni that meet at various online and offline events, share a talent pool, and support each other in a multitude of ways.
  • Getting access to the insights, the playbooks, and the network that helped 50+ seed startups from the #P9family raise excellent Series As and later-stage rounds.

When you start a new company, it can feel like the odds are stacked against you (and statistically they are). We obsess about turning them in your favor, and that shows in our numbers. About 55% of the companies that we back at the seed stage raise a $5M+ Series A from an international Tier 1 VC (vs. 40% for the best quartile of seed VCs and 19% for all European seed VCs, according to a Dealroom study).

(5) We’re now four equal partners.

Traditionally, VC firms used to have several layers of partners (with a variety of titles like “Investment Partner,” “Partner,” “General Partner,” “Managing General Partner,” etc.). Some of the most successful VCs like A16Z are built this way. Other firms, most famously Benchmark, are structured more like a jazz band than a traditional pyramid organization.

In Bill Gurley’s words:

“One of Benchmark’s core principles is the power of a fully equal partnership. Every one of our general partners, regardless of track record or seniority, has equal ownership in the firm and an equal stake in its future. We believe that this promotes teamwork, minimizes politics, and most importantly allows us to deliver the power of the entire team to the entrepreneurs we serve. It also allows us to recruit the best possible partner candidate.”

We have always had a lot of admiration for this model. While less scalable, it allows the partners to spend most of their time working with portfolio companies and looking for new investments, which is what we love the most about our jobs. We can’t improve on how Bill expresses it, so let us quote him again:

“We believe that successful early-stage venture investing is just that: a craft. It is a service-oriented business, not an industrial process that can be scaled. It requires investors to work diligently on the boards of startups, providing advice and counsel and supporting the visions and dreams of entrepreneurs.”

About ten years after starting Point Nine, we are thrilled to announce that two up-and-coming stars in the tech industry have joined us as equal partners: Louis Coppey and Ricardo Sequerra Amram.

Louis has been working with us as an Associate for about four years, so if you’re reading this, you most likely know him already. Here’s some more background on his journey at P9 so far and why we’re so excited to add him to our partnership.

Around the same time when Louis joined us, a young Portuguese tech investor, Ricardo Sequerra Amram, landed in the Berlin scene. As an Associate at Cherry Ventures, Ricardo got our attention by hustling his way into the Series A of our portfolio company Rekki, but it would take a few years (and Ricardo and Louis becoming flatmates) until it dawned on us that we should try to recruit him. Check out this post to read more about that story and about what Ricardo brings to P9.

Both Louis and Ricardo have demonstrated an extraordinary ability to spot new companies, develop strong bonds with entrepreneurs, contribute to the tech community, and help early-stage startups beat the odds. At ages 29 and 30, they are significantly earlier in their careers than the two of us. That’s a feature of our equal partnership, not a bug. Our goal was to find the smartest investors with the steepest trajectories, not the ones with the longest track record.

Louis and Ricardo embody the values that we aspire Point Nine to stand for. Both of them have an insatiable intellectual curiosity, a boundless love for technology and entrepreneurship, and, maybe most importantly, are kind, humble human beings who don’t take themselves too seriously.

We couldn’t be more excited to welcome them to our partnership. We’re looking forward to building Point Nine together with you, Ola, Tilman, and the rest of the P9 team in the years and decades to come.

Christoph and Pawel


Bonjour Louis, boa tarde Ricardo! was originally published in Point Nine Land on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Why we invested in Mission Barns


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

Two years ago I went out of my little SaaS box and embarked on a journey to explore the cultivated meat landscape. Armed with no knowledge of biology, but a lot of curiosity and passion, and a Venture Partner (Nathan Benaich) who has a PhD in biology and experience working with stem cells and cell culture, I took a deep dive into the fascinating technologies behind the future of meat. A few months later, we co-led Mission Barns’ seed round alongside Air Street Capital (Nathan’s new fund), Purple Orange Ventures, and Better Ventures.

At Point Nine, we’re pretty adamant about our strong focus on early-stage B2B SaaS and B2B marketplace investments. We’re convinced that in order to be good at what we’re doing, we have to say “no” to lots of interesting opportunities — whether that’s raising a growth fund, hiring a lot of new people, or investing in areas that we don’t understand.

Once in a while, however, we do venture out of our core focus areas. It usually happens when one of us (or some of us) becomes extremely passionate about a new idea or technology. For example, Pawel became a c̶r̶y̶p̶t̶o̶ ̶m̶a̶x̶i̶m̶a̶l̶i̶s̶t̶ super interested in crypto in 2013, which led to our investment in Bitbond in 2013 and paved the way for our investment in Chainalysis in 2015. Similarly, my passion for clean meat led to our investment in Mission Barns in 2018.

To explain why a SaaS dude suddenly invests in a cellular agriculture startup, let me share a brief personal story. My wife and I became vegetarians about ten years ago. Several years earlier, we had begun to doubt whether it’s morally justifiable to kill animals for their meat. Having read about the atrocities that are standard practice in factory farming we reduced our meat consumption and bought only “organic” meat from smaller farms. Giving up on eating meat entirely wasn’t something we could bring ourselves to do overnight because we had always liked eating meat. But the more we learned about animal ethics and the ability of animals to perceive pain, and the more we listened to our conscience, the more it became obvious to us that we were doing something deeply immoral. ⁽¹⁾

Our concerns about eating meat were driven by our worry about animal welfare, but animal welfare is only one of several problematic issues with meat consumption. As you probably know, meat production is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. According to the FAO, 14.5% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions are due to livestock. Meat production is also the top driver of deforestation in the world’s tropical forests. The process consumes enormous amounts of water and land and hugely contributes to water pollution, various other environmental problems, and human health hazards, including zoonotic diseases.⁽²⁾

“COVID-19 is one of the worst zoonotic diseases, but it is not the first. Ebola, SARS, MERS, HIV, Lyme disease, Rift Valley fever and Lassa fever preceded it. In the last century we have seen at least six major outbreaks of novel coronaviruses. Sixty per cent of known infectious diseases and 75 per cent of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic. Over the last two decades and before COVID-19, zoonotic diseases caused economic damage of USD 100 billion.”

Inger Andersen, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme

Producing meat by raising and slaughtering animals is also absurdly energy-inefficient. It takes about 50 calories of input (as feed) to create one calorie of beef. Pork and poultry production is significantly more energy-efficient, but still extremely wasteful in comparison to growing vegetables.

Another huge issue is the growing number of multidrug-resistant pathogens, such as bacteria that have become resistant to multiple antibiotics. According to the WHO, “antimicrobial resistance threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi”, and “without effective antibiotics, the success of major surgery and cancer chemotherapy would be compromised”. The CDC reports that “more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result”. The UN warns that “drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050” (!). What does this have to do with meat-eating? A lot, because meat production accounts for a shockingly large portion of antibiotic usage. According to a Science article, “almost 80% of all antibiotics in the United States aren’t taken by people. They’re given to cows, pigs, and chickens to make them grow more quickly or as a cheap alternative to keeping them healthy.”

So even if you don’t care about animals at all, there are plenty of other reasons why you should be very worried about meat consumption. If I may borrow a phrase from Greta Thunberg: I want you to panic.

Back to my personal story. One day, we decided to try a vegetarian diet for a month to see how difficult it would be. That was the last day my wife or I ate any meat. It wasn’t that difficult, but if you grow up eating meat it is definitely a big change. In the beginning, I did miss my hamburger, steak, sausage, chicken, etc. (I told you, I loved meat!), especially in situations when everyone around me was eating meat and the vegetarian alternatives weren’t that good.

The good news for vegetarians (or anybody who wants to reduce their meat consumption) is that in the last few years there’s been an explosion of new plant-based meat alternatives that taste much better than the products that were on the market a few years ago. You’ve probably heard of (and maybe tasted) the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger, two of the most successful plant-based meat alternatives. I love both of them.

However, it’s one thing to convince a vegetarian to buy a veggie burger, and it’s another thing to convince people who care less about animals, let alone die-hard meat eaters, to go for a plant-based meat alternative. Here’s where Mission Barns and other startups that are trying to create meat from animal cells come into play. In contrast to plant-based meat, which uses various plant-based ingredients to mimic the taste and texture of meat, the idea behind cell-based meat is to create a product that has all the same characteristics of conventional meat because it essentially is meat.

Amazingly, Winston Churchill imagined cultivated meat almost 100 years ago:

“With a greater knowledge of what are called hormones, i.e. the chemical messengers in our blood, it will be possible to control growth. We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”

In case you’re not familiar with the concept, here’s how it works in a p̵e̵t̵r̵i̵ ̵d̵i̵s̵h̵ nutshell:

  1. Isolate a small number of cells from an animal.
  2. Culture them in a bioreactor so that they divide and grow in numbers.
  3. Harvest these cultured cells and process them to create a meat product.

If this sounds like a gross oversimplification, that’s because it is. Creating any amount of cell-based meat requires deep knowledge in cell biology and bioprocess engineering. You have to find the right “starter cells” (e.g. stem cells of some description); adapt them to grow in a chemically defined media (which doesn’t contain animal products like fetal bovine serum); prompt them to differentiate into cells that constitute your meat product of choice (e.g. muscle or fat cells); devise a culture system with a high cell density so that you don’t need several soccer fields’ worth of physical space to grow a burger patty, and much more. Creating a tasty meat product with a great look and (mouth) feel that consumers love, devising a scalable production process, and ultimately producing meat at costs that are in the neighborhood of traditional meat production costs is an even bigger challenge.

Considering all these difficulties, Mission Barns’ progress in the last two years has been truly spectacular. Since our investment, they have developed a scalable production system, optimized a low-cost, animal-free feedstock, and demonstrated cell growth up to very high densities. Last month, the company held tastings in San Francisco where people had a chance to try Mission Barns’ bacon.

Mission Barns cultivated bacon, Mission Bacon, is grown from pork fat cells without harming any actual pigs.

Of course, Mission Barns still has to figure out several challenges until they are able to cultivate meat at industrial scale and at or near cost parity with “traditional” meat. But if Mission Barns continues on its trajectory, it will be one of the very first companies to bring cultivated meat products to the market — and contribute to the beginning of the end of factory farming as we know it.

The future that Churchill imagined almost 100 years ago is coming closer to the present. Stay tuned.

Big thanks to Nathan Benaich, Eitan Fischer (founder & CEO of Mission Barns), Seth Bannon, Paul Shapiro, Liz Specht, and everyone else who helped me learn more about cultivated meat. And thank you, Nathan and Eitan, for reviewing a draft of this post.

(1) I’m aware that most readers will disagree with this statement. Some might find it presumptuous that I’m calling eating meat immoral. It’s not my intention to offend anyone. I ate meat for more than 30 years, so I won’t condemn anyone who’s doing the same.

(2) Zoonotic diseases are diseases that are caused by a pathogen that has jumped from a non-human animal to a human. Industrial farming of animals, specifically pigs and chickens, is one of the primary risks for the spillover of zoonotic diseases.


Why we invested in Mission Barns was originally published in Point Nine Land on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Why we invested in Mission Barns


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

Two years ago I went out of my little SaaS box and embarked on a journey to explore the cultivated meat landscape. Armed with no knowledge of biology, but a lot of curiosity and passion, and a Venture Partner (Nathan Benaich) who has a PhD in biology and experience working with stem cells and cell culture, I took a deep dive into the fascinating technologies behind the future of meat. A few months later, we co-led Mission Barns’ seed round alongside Air Street Capital (Nathan’s new fund), Purple Orange Ventures, and Better Ventures.

At Point Nine, we’re pretty adamant about our strong focus on early-stage B2B SaaS and B2B marketplace investments. We’re convinced that in order to be good at what we’re doing, we have to say “no” to lots of interesting opportunities — whether that’s raising a growth fund, hiring a lot of new people, or investing in areas that we don’t understand.

Once in a while, however, we do venture out of our core focus areas. It usually happens when one of us (or some of us) becomes extremely passionate about a new idea or technology. For example, Pawel became a b̶i̶t̶c̶o̶i̶n̶ ̶m̶a̶x̶i̶m̶a̶l̶i̶s̶t̶ super interested in crypto in 2013, which led to our investment in Bitbond in 2013 and paved the way for our investments in Chainalysis in 2015 and Kaiko in 2019. Similarly, my passion for clean meat led to our investment in Mission Barns in 2018.

To explain why a SaaS dude suddenly invests in a cellular agriculture startup, let me share a brief personal story. My wife and I became vegetarians about ten years ago. Several years earlier, we had begun to doubt whether it’s morally justifiable to kill animals for their meat. Having read about the atrocities that are standard practice in factory farming we reduced our meat consumption and bought only “organic” meat from smaller farms. Giving up on eating meat entirely wasn’t something we could bring ourselves to do overnight because we had always liked eating meat. But the more we learned about animal ethics and the ability of animals to perceive pain, and the more we listened to our conscience, the more it became obvious to us that we were doing something deeply immoral. ⁽¹⁾

Our concerns about eating meat were driven by our worry about animal welfare, but animal welfare is only one of several problematic issues with meat consumption. As you probably know, meat production is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. According to the FAO, 14.5% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions are due to livestock. Meat production is also the top driver of deforestation in the world’s tropical forests. The process consumes enormous amounts of water and land and hugely contributes to water pollution, various other environmental problems, and human health hazards, including zoonotic diseases.⁽²⁾

“COVID-19 is one of the worst zoonotic diseases, but it is not the first. Ebola, SARS, MERS, HIV, Lyme disease, Rift Valley fever and Lassa fever preceded it. In the last century we have seen at least six major outbreaks of novel coronaviruses. Sixty per cent of known infectious diseases and 75 per cent of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic. Over the last two decades and before COVID-19, zoonotic diseases caused economic damage of USD 100 billion.”

Inger Andersen, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme

Producing meat by raising and slaughtering animals is also absurdly energy-inefficient. It takes about 50 calories of input (as feed) to create one calorie of beef. Pork and poultry production is significantly more energy-efficient, but still extremely wasteful in comparison to growing vegetables.

Another huge issue is the growing number of multidrug-resistant pathogens, such as bacteria that have become resistant to multiple antibiotics. According to the WHO, “antimicrobial resistance threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi”, and “without effective antibiotics, the success of major surgery and cancer chemotherapy would be compromised”. The CDC reports that “more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result”. The UN warns that “drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050” (!). What does this have to do with meat-eating? A lot, because meat production accounts for a shockingly large portion of antibiotic usage. According to a Science article, “almost 80% of all antibiotics in the United States aren’t taken by people. They’re given to cows, pigs, and chickens to make them grow more quickly or as a cheap alternative to keeping them healthy.”

So even if you don’t care about animals at all, there are plenty of other reasons why you should be very worried about meat consumption. If I may borrow a phrase from Greta Thunberg: I want you to panic.

Back to my personal story. One day, we decided to try a vegetarian diet for a month to see how difficult it would be. That was the last day my wife or I ate any meat. It wasn’t that difficult, but if you grow up eating meat it is definitely a big change. In the beginning, I did miss my hamburger, steak, sausage, chicken, etc. (I told you, I loved meat!), especially in situations when everyone around me was eating meat and the vegetarian alternatives weren’t that good.

The good news for vegetarians (or anybody who wants to reduce their meat consumption) is that in the last few years there’s been an explosion of new plant-based meat alternatives that taste much better than the products that were on the market a few years ago. You’ve probably heard of (and maybe tasted) the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger, two of the most successful plant-based meat alternatives. I love both of them.

However, it’s one thing to convince a vegetarian to buy a veggie burger, and it’s another thing to convince people who care less about animals, let alone die-hard meat eaters, to go for a plant-based meat alternative. Here’s where Mission Barns and other startups that are trying to create meat from animal cells come into play. In contrast to plant-based meat, which uses various plant-based ingredients to mimic the taste and texture of meat, the idea behind cell-based meat is to create a product that has all the same characteristics of conventional meat because it essentially is meat.

Amazingly, Winston Churchill imagined cultivated meat almost 100 years ago:

“With a greater knowledge of what are called hormones, i.e. the chemical messengers in our blood, it will be possible to control growth. We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”

In case you’re not familiar with the concept, here’s how it works in a p̵e̵t̵r̵i̵ ̵d̵i̵s̵h̵ nutshell:

  1. Isolate a small number of cells from an animal.
  2. Culture them in a bioreactor so that they divide and grow in numbers.
  3. Harvest these cultured cells and process them to create a meat product.

If this sounds like a gross oversimplification, that’s because it is. Creating any amount of cell-based meat requires deep knowledge in cell biology and bioprocess engineering. You have to find the right “starter cells” (e.g. stem cells of some description); adapt them to grow in a chemically defined media (which doesn’t contain animal products like fetal bovine serum); prompt them to differentiate into cells that constitute your meat product of choice (e.g. muscle or fat cells); devise a culture system with a high cell density so that you don’t need several soccer fields’ worth of physical space to grow a burger patty, and much more. Creating a tasty meat product with a great look and (mouth) feel that consumers love, devising a scalable production process, and ultimately producing meat at costs that are in the neighborhood of traditional meat production costs is an even bigger challenge.

Considering all these difficulties, Mission Barns’ progress in the last two years has been truly spectacular. Since our investment, they have developed a scalable production system, optimized a low-cost, animal-free feedstock, and demonstrated cell growth up to very high densities. Last month, the company held tastings in San Francisco where people had a chance to try Mission Barns’ bacon.

Mission Barns cultivated bacon, Mission Bacon, is grown from pork fat cells without harming any actual pigs.

Of course, Mission Barns still has to figure out several challenges until they are able to cultivate meat at industrial scale and at or near cost parity with “traditional” meat. But if Mission Barns continues on its trajectory, it will be one of the very first companies to bring cultivated meat products to the market — and contribute to the beginning of the end of factory farming as we know it.

The future that Churchill imagined almost 100 years ago is coming closer to the present. Stay tuned.

Big thanks to Nathan Benaich, Eitan Fischer (founder & CEO of Mission Barns), Seth Bannon, Paul Shapiro, Liz Specht, and everyone else who helped me learn more about cultivated meat. And thank you, Nathan and Eitan, for reviewing a draft of this post.

(1) I’m aware that most readers will disagree with this statement. Some might find it presumptuous that I’m calling eating meat immoral. It’s not my intention to offend anyone. I ate meat for more than 30 years, so I won’t condemn anyone who’s doing the same.

(2) Zoonotic diseases are diseases that are caused by a pathogen that has jumped from a non-human animal to a human. Industrial farming of animals, specifically pigs and chickens, is one of the primary risks for the spillover of zoonotic diseases.


Why we invested in Mission Barns was originally published in Point Nine Land on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Why we invested in Mission Barns


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

Two years ago I went out of my little SaaS box and embarked on a journey to explore the cultivated meat landscape. Armed with no knowledge of biology, but a lot of curiosity and passion, and a Venture Partner (Nathan Benaich) who has a PhD in biology and experience working with stem cells and cell culture, I took a deep dive into the fascinating technologies behind the future of meat. A few months later, we co-led Mission Barns’ seed round alongside Air Street Capital (Nathan’s new fund), Purple Orange Ventures, and Better Ventures.

At Point Nine, we’re pretty adamant about our strong focus on early-stage B2B SaaS and B2B marketplace investments. We’re convinced that in order to be good at what we’re doing, we have to say “no” to lots of interesting opportunities — whether that’s raising a growth fund, hiring a lot of new people, or investing in areas that we don’t understand.

Once in a while, however, we do venture out of our core focus areas. It usually happens when one of us (or some of us) becomes extremely passionate about a new idea or technology. For example, Pawel became a b̶i̶t̶c̶o̶i̶n̶ ̶m̶a̶x̶i̶m̶a̶l̶i̶s̶t̶ super interested in crypto in 2013, which led to our investment in Bitbond in 2013 and paved the way for our investments in Chainalysis in 2015 and Kaiko in 2019. Similarly, my passion for clean meat led to our investment in Mission Barns in 2018.

To explain why a SaaS dude suddenly invests in a cellular agriculture startup, let me share a brief personal story. My wife and I became vegetarians about ten years ago. Several years earlier, we had begun to doubt whether it’s morally justifiable to kill animals for their meat. Having read about the atrocities that are standard practice in factory farming we reduced our meat consumption and bought only “organic” meat from smaller farms. Giving up on eating meat entirely wasn’t something we could bring ourselves to do overnight because we had always liked eating meat. But the more we learned about animal ethics and the ability of animals to perceive pain, and the more we listened to our conscience, the more it became obvious to us that we were doing something deeply immoral. ⁽¹⁾

Our concerns about eating meat were driven by our worry about animal welfare, but animal welfare is only one of several problematic issues with meat consumption. As you probably know, meat production is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. According to the FAO, 14.5% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions are due to livestock. Meat production is also the top driver of deforestation in the world’s tropical forests. The process consumes enormous amounts of water and land and hugely contributes to water pollution, various other environmental problems, and human health hazards, including zoonotic diseases.⁽²⁾

“COVID-19 is one of the worst zoonotic diseases, but it is not the first. Ebola, SARS, MERS, HIV, Lyme disease, Rift Valley fever and Lassa fever preceded it. In the last century we have seen at least six major outbreaks of novel coronaviruses. Sixty per cent of known infectious diseases and 75 per cent of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic. Over the last two decades and before COVID-19, zoonotic diseases caused economic damage of USD 100 billion.”

Inger Andersen, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme

Producing meat by raising and slaughtering animals is also absurdly energy-inefficient. It takes about 50 calories of input (as feed) to create one calorie of beef. Pork and poultry production is significantly more energy-efficient, but still extremely wasteful in comparison to growing vegetables.

Another huge issue is the growing number of multidrug-resistant pathogens, such as bacteria that have become resistant to multiple antibiotics. According to the WHO, “antimicrobial resistance threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi”, and “without effective antibiotics, the success of major surgery and cancer chemotherapy would be compromised”. The CDC reports that “more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result”. The UN warns that “drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050” (!). What does this have to do with meat-eating? A lot, because meat production accounts for a shockingly large portion of antibiotic usage. According to a Science article, “almost 80% of all antibiotics in the United States aren’t taken by people. They’re given to cows, pigs, and chickens to make them grow more quickly or as a cheap alternative to keeping them healthy.”

So even if you don’t care about animals at all, there are plenty of other reasons why you should be very worried about meat consumption. If I may borrow a phrase from Greta Thunberg: I want you to panic.

Back to my personal story. One day, we decided to try a vegetarian diet for a month to see how difficult it would be. That was the last day my wife or I ate any meat. It wasn’t that difficult, but if you grow up eating meat it is definitely a big change. In the beginning, I did miss my hamburger, steak, sausage, chicken, etc. (I told you, I loved meat!), especially in situations when everyone around me was eating meat and the vegetarian alternatives weren’t that good.

The good news for vegetarians (or anybody who wants to reduce their meat consumption) is that in the last few years there’s been an explosion of new plant-based meat alternatives that taste much better than the products that were on the market a few years ago. You’ve probably heard of (and maybe tasted) the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger, two of the most successful plant-based meat alternatives. I love both of them.

However, it’s one thing to convince a vegetarian to buy a veggie burger, and it’s another thing to convince people who care less about animals, let alone die-hard meat eaters, to go for a plant-based meat alternative. Here’s where Mission Barns and other startups that are trying to create meat from animal cells come into play. In contrast to plant-based meat, which uses various plant-based ingredients to mimic the taste and texture of meat, the idea behind cell-based meat is to create a product that has all the same characteristics of conventional meat because it essentially is meat.

Amazingly, Winston Churchill imagined cultivated meat almost 100 years ago:

“With a greater knowledge of what are called hormones, i.e. the chemical messengers in our blood, it will be possible to control growth. We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”

In case you’re not familiar with the concept, here’s how it works in a p̵e̵t̵r̵i̵ ̵d̵i̵s̵h̵ nutshell:

  1. Isolate a small number of cells from an animal.
  2. Culture them in a bioreactor so that they divide and grow in numbers.
  3. Harvest these cultured cells and process them to create a meat product.

If this sounds like a gross oversimplification, that’s because it is. Creating any amount of cell-based meat requires deep knowledge in cell biology and bioprocess engineering. You have to find the right “starter cells” (e.g. stem cells of some description); adapt them to grow in a chemically defined media (which doesn’t contain animal products like fetal bovine serum); prompt them to differentiate into cells that constitute your meat product of choice (e.g. muscle or fat cells); devise a culture system with a high cell density so that you don’t need several soccer fields’ worth of physical space to grow a burger patty, and much more. Creating a tasty meat product with a great look and (mouth) feel that consumers love, devising a scalable production process, and ultimately producing meat at costs that are in the neighborhood of traditional meat production costs is an even bigger challenge.

Considering all these difficulties, Mission Barns’ progress in the last two years has been truly spectacular. Since our investment, they have developed a scalable production system, optimized a low-cost, animal-free feedstock, and demonstrated cell growth up to very high densities. Last month, the company held tastings in San Francisco where people had a chance to try Mission Barns’ bacon.

Mission Barns cultivated bacon, Mission Bacon, is grown from pork fat cells without harming any actual pigs.

Of course, Mission Barns still has to figure out several challenges until they are able to cultivate meat at industrial scale and at or near cost parity with “traditional” meat. But if Mission Barns continues on its trajectory, it will be one of the very first companies to bring cultivated meat products to the market — and contribute to the beginning of the end of factory farming as we know it.

The future that Churchill imagined almost 100 years ago is coming closer to the present. Stay tuned.

Big thanks to Nathan Benaich, Eitan Fischer (founder & CEO of Mission Barns), Seth Bannon, Paul Shapiro, Liz Specht, and everyone else who helped me learn more about cultivated meat. And thank you, Nathan and Eitan, for reviewing a draft of this post.

(1) I’m aware that most readers will disagree with this statement. Some might find it presumptuous that I’m calling eating meat immoral. It’s not my intention to offend anyone. I ate meat for more than 30 years, so I won’t condemn anyone who’s doing the same.

(2) Zoonotic diseases are diseases that are caused by a pathogen that has jumped from a non-human animal to a human. Industrial farming of animals, specifically pigs and chickens, is one of the primary risks for the spillover of zoonotic diseases.


Why we invested in Mission Barns was originally published in Point Nine Land on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Why we invested in Mission Barns


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

Two years ago I went out of my little SaaS box and embarked on a journey to explore the cultivated meat landscape. Armed with no knowledge of biology, but a lot of curiosity and passion, and a Venture Partner (Nathan Benaich) who has a PhD in biology and experience working with stem cells and cell culture, I took a deep dive into the fascinating technologies behind the future of meat. A few months later, we co-led Mission Barns’ seed round alongside Air Street Capital (Nathan’s new fund), Purple Orange Ventures, and Better Ventures.

At Point Nine, we’re pretty adamant about our strong focus on early-stage B2B SaaS and B2B marketplace investments. We’re convinced that in order to be good at what we’re doing, we have to say “no” to lots of interesting opportunities — whether that’s raising a growth fund, hiring a lot of new people, or investing in areas that we don’t understand.

Once in a while, however, we do venture out of our core focus areas. It usually happens when one of us (or some of us) becomes extremely passionate about a new idea or technology. For example, Pawel became a b̶i̶t̶c̶o̶i̶n̶ ̶m̶a̶x̶i̶m̶a̶l̶i̶s̶t̶ super interested in crypto in 2013, which led to our investment in Bitbond in 2013 and paved the way for our investments in Chainalysis in 2015 and Kaiko in 2019. Similarly, my passion for clean meat led to our investment in Mission Barns in 2018.

To explain why a SaaS dude suddenly invests in a cellular agriculture startup, let me share a brief personal story. My wife and I became vegetarians about ten years ago. Several years earlier, we had begun to doubt whether it’s morally justifiable to kill animals for their meat. Having read about the atrocities that are standard practice in factory farming we reduced our meat consumption and bought only “organic” meat from smaller farms. Giving up on eating meat entirely wasn’t something we could bring ourselves to do overnight because we had always liked eating meat. But the more we learned about animal ethics and the ability of animals to perceive pain, and the more we listened to our conscience, the more it became obvious to us that we were doing something deeply immoral. ⁽¹⁾

Our concerns about eating meat were driven by our worry about animal welfare, but animal welfare is only one of several problematic issues with meat consumption. As you probably know, meat production is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. According to the FAO, 14.5% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions are due to livestock. Meat production is also the top driver of deforestation in the world’s tropical forests. The process consumes enormous amounts of water and land and hugely contributes to water pollution, various other environmental problems, and human health hazards, including zoonotic diseases.⁽²⁾

“COVID-19 is one of the worst zoonotic diseases, but it is not the first. Ebola, SARS, MERS, HIV, Lyme disease, Rift Valley fever and Lassa fever preceded it. In the last century we have seen at least six major outbreaks of novel coronaviruses. Sixty per cent of known infectious diseases and 75 per cent of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic. Over the last two decades and before COVID-19, zoonotic diseases caused economic damage of USD 100 billion.”

Inger Andersen, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme

Producing meat by raising and slaughtering animals is also absurdly energy-inefficient. It takes about 50 calories of input (as feed) to create one calorie of beef. Pork and poultry production is significantly more energy-efficient, but still extremely wasteful in comparison to growing vegetables.

Another huge issue is the growing number of multidrug-resistant pathogens, such as bacteria that have become resistant to multiple antibiotics. According to the WHO, “antimicrobial resistance threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi”, and “without effective antibiotics, the success of major surgery and cancer chemotherapy would be compromised”. The CDC reports that “more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result”. The UN warns that “drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050” (!). What does this have to do with meat-eating? A lot, because meat production accounts for a shockingly large portion of antibiotic usage. According to a Science article, “almost 80% of all antibiotics in the United States aren’t taken by people. They’re given to cows, pigs, and chickens to make them grow more quickly or as a cheap alternative to keeping them healthy.”

So even if you don’t care about animals at all, there are plenty of other reasons why you should be very worried about meat consumption. If I may borrow a phrase from Greta Thunberg: I want you to panic.

Back to my personal story. One day, we decided to try a vegetarian diet for a month to see how difficult it would be. That was the last day my wife or I ate any meat. It wasn’t that difficult, but if you grow up eating meat it is definitely a big change. In the beginning, I did miss my hamburger, steak, sausage, chicken, etc. (I told you, I loved meat!), especially in situations when everyone around me was eating meat and the vegetarian alternatives weren’t that good.

The good news for vegetarians (or anybody who wants to reduce their meat consumption) is that in the last few years there’s been an explosion of new plant-based meat alternatives that taste much better than the products that were on the market a few years ago. You’ve probably heard of (and maybe tasted) the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger, two of the most successful plant-based meat alternatives. I love both of them.

However, it’s one thing to convince a vegetarian to buy a veggie burger, and it’s another thing to convince people who care less about animals, let alone die-hard meat eaters, to go for a plant-based meat alternative. Here’s where Mission Barns and other startups that are trying to create meat from animal cells come into play. In contrast to plant-based meat, which uses various plant-based ingredients to mimic the taste and texture of meat, the idea behind cell-based meat is to create a product that has all the same characteristics of conventional meat because it essentially is meat.

Amazingly, Winston Churchill imagined cultivated meat almost 100 years ago:

“With a greater knowledge of what are called hormones, i.e. the chemical messengers in our blood, it will be possible to control growth. We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”

In case you’re not familiar with the concept, here’s how it works in a p̵e̵t̵r̵i̵ ̵d̵i̵s̵h̵ nutshell:

  1. Isolate a small number of cells from an animal.
  2. Culture them in a bioreactor so that they divide and grow in numbers.
  3. Harvest these cultured cells and process them to create a meat product.

If this sounds like a gross oversimplification, that’s because it is. Creating any amount of cell-based meat requires deep knowledge in cell biology and bioprocess engineering. You have to find the right “starter cells” (e.g. stem cells of some description); adapt them to grow in a chemically defined media (which doesn’t contain animal products like fetal bovine serum); prompt them to differentiate into cells that constitute your meat product of choice (e.g. muscle or fat cells); devise a culture system with a high cell density so that you don’t need several soccer fields’ worth of physical space to grow a burger patty, and much more. Creating a tasty meat product with a great look and (mouth) feel that consumers love, devising a scalable production process, and ultimately producing meat at costs that are in the neighborhood of traditional meat production costs is an even bigger challenge.

Considering all these difficulties, Mission Barns’ progress in the last two years has been truly spectacular. Since our investment, they have developed a scalable production system, optimized a low-cost, animal-free feedstock, and demonstrated cell growth up to very high densities. Last month, the company held tastings in San Francisco where people had a chance to try Mission Barns’ bacon.

Mission Barns cultivated bacon, Mission Bacon, is grown from pork fat cells without harming any actual pigs.

Of course, Mission Barns still has to figure out several challenges until they are able to cultivate meat at industrial scale and at or near cost parity with “traditional” meat. But if Mission Barns continues on its trajectory, it will be one of the very first companies to bring cultivated meat products to the market — and contribute to the beginning of the end of factory farming as we know it.

The future that Churchill imagined almost 100 years ago is coming closer to the present. Stay tuned.

Big thanks to Nathan Benaich, Eitan Fischer (founder & CEO of Mission Barns), Seth Bannon, Paul Shapiro, Liz Specht, and everyone else who helped me learn more about cultivated meat. And thank you, Nathan and Eitan, for reviewing a draft of this post.

(1) I’m aware that most readers will disagree with this statement. Some might find it presumptuous that I’m calling eating meat immoral. It’s not my intention to offend anyone. I ate meat for more than 30 years, so I won’t condemn anyone who’s doing the same.

(2) Zoonotic diseases are diseases that are caused by a pathogen that has jumped from a non-human animal to a human. Industrial farming of animals, specifically pigs and chickens, is one of the primary risks for the spillover of zoonotic diseases.


Why we invested in Mission Barns was originally published in Point Nine Land on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Bringing the cocktail effect to video meetings


This post is curated by Keith Teare. It was written by Christoph Janz. The original is [linked here]

Bringing the cocktail effect to video meetings

On WFH, zoomalternative.com, and being late to Clubhouse

If you know Point Nine a little bit you might know that we’re extremely excited about video conferencing technology, and more broadly, about how video as a medium is transforming everything from education and entertainment to communication and marketing. In the last few years we’ve invested in several startups that use video in a variety of different ways: Confrere, a video calling solution for physicians; Loom, a beautiful tool for asynchronous video messages; PlayPlay, which lets anyone easily create professional videos; Preply, a learning platform for language tutoring sessions over video; ScreenCloud, a web-based digital signage software; Zype, which helps companies distribute, manage, and monetize digital videos; and one more recent addition to the #p9family that hasn’t been announced yet.

#p9family companies going after various opportunities “in video”

My personal interest in video conferencing is related to the fact that I’ve been working remotely for more than twenty years. If you spend hours and hours in video conferences every day you can’t help but develop a keen interest in any piece of hardware or software that might improve the audio or video quality or overall meeting experience. 🙂 (Feel free to reach out if you want to geek out on that topic.)

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for human interactions

We’ve always had a remote-friendly culture and a geo-agnostic investment strategy at Point Nine. As a result, the last months weren’t that different or difficult for us. Even so, four months of social distancing has made me realize one thing: While Zoom has done a fantastic job in bringing reliable, high-quality video meetings to companies around the world, the types of meetings that Zoom excels at represent only a subset of a much larger number of social interaction paradigms.

Think about some of the many other ways in which people meet, communicate, and interact in the physical world: A consultation with a physician. A university lecture. A sales or customer support call. A family dinner or a team lunch. Playing a board game with friends. Watching a movie together. A networking dinner. A brainstorming session. A conference.

Unbundling Zoom

If you wanted to design a software product aimed at replicating the experience of, say, a team lunch in the online world, that product would likely look very different from a tool for online lectures or software for brainstorming sessions. It would undoubtedly look and feel different from what Zoom looks and feels like today.

There is no doubt that Zoom will continue to develop its products to address further use cases. Moreover, by letting third-party developers build products on top of its platform Zoom might become the backbone of our new virtual world.

I’m convinced, however, that there are plenty of opportunities for startups to build large, successful video conferencing businesses that focus on specific niches and offer the best possible user experience for their chosen meeting types or use cases. People are already used to using multiple different communication tools depending on the context (e.g. Slack for work, WhatsApp for friends, Skype for your parents). Users may be loyal to a tool or service, but their loyalty is usually limited to certain contexts. FWIW, I’m so bullish about Zoom alternatives that I recently registered the domain www.zoomalternative.com. Let’s see what it might be useful for. 😁

How would a Zoom for dinners look like?

Continuing this line of thought I asked myself: How would a video meeting product for networking dinners with, say, 20–50 guests, look like? It certainly wouldn’t be a Zoom meeting with 20–50 participants. How would you design an application that enables social interactions similar to those at a business dinner event? With the caveats that a) I’m not an expert at dinner networking by any stretch of imagination and b) we’ll have to forget about the food for now, here are my thoughts.

Let’s imagine a dinner with 40 people, four tables with 10 participants each:

The initial seating order is either provided by the host or emerges as attendees pick seats, in which case it’s a result of the attendees’ relationships, personalities, interests, status, plus an element of randomness.

Let’s think about what’s happening here:

  • With around 10 people per table, it’s still possible to have one conversation that everyone at the table participates in, depicted by the large blue oval in the top left. (If there are significantly more than 10 persons seated around one table you will start to lose the ability to have a single conversation — unless there’s a moderator, maybe, but that’s yet another type of meeting.
  • In most cases, there will be multiple conversations per table, as illustrated by the various other blue ovals above. To be precise, the number of simultaneous conversations per table is in the 1–5 range (not counting monologues, prayers, phone calls, and assuming there are neither cross-table conversations nor people engaging in multiple conversations at the same time).
  • People tend to have conversations in “groups” consisting of 2–5 (or maybe a few more) participants, mostly with people that are spatially close to them (for obvious, acoustic reasons).
  • Groups emerge spontaneously and can be expanded or reduced in size, merged with other groups, split into subgroups, and dissolved, without any central planning, based on the behaviors of the various actors.
  • People frequently switch between groups in their proximity (for any number of reasons).

What else?

  • Occasionally, people swap seats in order to join a farther away group, indicated by the violet arrows above (because the grass is always greener on the other side).
  • Depending on the room layout, groups may span across neighboring tables, although this may require a certain amount of physical suppleness (green oval).
  • People occasionally switch to another table, e.g. for the dessert or afterwards (red arrows).

How does the switching work?

For starters, it’s important to remember why people are able to have a conversation in a noisy restaurant in the first place. How can you understand what another person is saying when there are multiple other people yelling talking at the same time? The explanation is the well-known cocktail party effect, which describes the brain’s ability to focus on one auditory stimulus while filtering out a range of other stimuli. What’s important in the context of video conferencing is that the cocktail party effect requires stereo hearing. At a dinner event, your left ear and your right ear receive somewhat different audio signals, which the AI between your ears uses to localize sound sources. Unless you use ultra high-end telepresence systems that record and play audio Dolby-style, spatial information is completely missing from the audio that you receive in a video conference, which largely disables the cocktail party phenomenon (and is one of the reasons why video meetings and IRL meetings don’t quite feel the same yet).

Coming back to our networking dinner:

  • Because of the cocktail party effect, people are able to participate in the conversation of one group while hearing and capturing fragments of other groups’ conversations.
  • People may occasionally shift their attention to a neighboring groups’ conversation for a brief moment or they can use short breaks of their group’s conversation to “tune in” to neighboring groups’ conversations.
  • People can use what they’ve learned about neighboring groups’ conversations to decide if they want to leave their group and join another one.

Bringing the cocktail effect to video meetings

The above has shown that in order to replicate a networking dinner, the software needs to meet a few important requirements:

  1. The software needs to offer an equivalent to the “groups” I spoke about above. The closest thing to that in existing video conferencing software would be a “room” or “breakout room”, but I think “table” might be a better term, so I’ll use that here.
  2. People need to be able to receive cues about what’s going on at other tables. The trick is to find a mechanism to provide these cues in an unobtrusive, non-distracting way. Audio cues are likely to be too distracting, so listening in to another table’s conversation, even at a reduced volume, while following the conversation of one’s own table is probably not the right solution. Visual cues could work very well, however. Using speech recognition and a simple (tag cloud style) algorithm, I think the software would be able to provide useful cues.

People must be able to easily switch back and forth between tables.

A simple mockup might make it easier to see what I have in mind:

Bringing the cocktail effect to video meetings


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

On WFH, zoomalternative.com, and being late to Clubhouse

If you know Point Nine a little bit you might know that we’re extremely excited about video conferencing technology, and more broadly, about how video as a medium is transforming everything from education and entertainment to communication and marketing. In the last few years we’ve invested in several startups that use video in a variety of different ways: Confrere, a video calling solution for physicians; Loom, a beautiful tool for asynchronous video messages; PlayPlay, which lets anyone easily create professional videos; Preply, a learning platform for language tutoring sessions over video; ScreenCloud, a web-based digital signage software; Zype, which helps companies distribute, manage, and monetize digital videos; and one more recent addition to the #p9family that hasn’t been announced yet.

#p9family companies going after various opportunities “in video”

My personal interest in video conferencing is related to the fact that I’ve been working remotely for more than twenty years. If you spend hours and hours in video conferences every day you can’t help but develop a keen interest in any piece of hardware or software that might improve the audio or video quality or overall meeting experience. 🙂 (Feel free to reach out if you want to geek out on that topic.)

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for human interactions

We’ve always had a remote-friendly culture and a geo-agnostic investment strategy at Point Nine. As a result, the last months weren’t that different or difficult for us. Even so, four months of social distancing has made me realize one thing: While Zoom has done a fantastic job in bringing reliable, high-quality video meetings to companies around the world, the types of meetings that Zoom excels at represent only a subset of a much larger number of social interaction paradigms.

Think about some of the many other ways in which people meet, communicate, and interact in the physical world: A consultation with a physician. A university lecture. A sales or customer support call. A family dinner or a team lunch. Playing a board game with friends. Watching a movie together. A networking dinner. A brainstorming session. A conference.

Unbundling Zoom

If you wanted to design a software product aimed at replicating the experience of, say, a team lunch in the online world, that product would likely look very different from a tool for online lectures or software for brainstorming sessions. It would undoubtedly look and feel different from what Zoom looks and feels like today.

There is no doubt that Zoom will continue to develop its products to address further use cases. Moreover, by letting third-party developers build products on top of its platform Zoom might become the backbone of our new virtual world.

I’m convinced, however, that there are plenty of opportunities for startups to build large, successful video conferencing businesses that focus on specific niches and offer the best possible user experience for their chosen meeting types or use cases. People are already used to using multiple different communication tools depending on the context (e.g. Slack for work, WhatsApp for friends, Skype for your parents). Users may be loyal to a tool or service, but their loyalty is usually limited to certain contexts. FWIW, I’m so bullish about Zoom alternatives that I recently registered the domain www.zoomalternative.com. Let’s see what it might be useful for. 😁

How would a Zoom for dinners look like?

Continuing this line of thought I asked myself: How would a video meeting product for networking dinners with, say, 20–50 guests, look like? It certainly wouldn’t be a Zoom meeting with 20–50 participants. How would you design an application that enables social interactions similar to those at a business dinner event? With the caveats that a) I’m not an expert at dinner networking by any stretch of imagination and b) we’ll have to forget about the food for now, here are my thoughts.

Let’s imagine a dinner with 40 people, four tables with 10 participants each:

The initial seating order is either provided by the host or emerges as attendees pick seats, in which case it’s a result of the attendees’ relationships, personalities, interests, status, plus an element of randomness.

Let’s think about what’s happening here:

  • With around 10 people per table, it’s still possible to have one conversation that everyone at the table participates in, depicted by the large blue oval in the top left. (If there are significantly more than 10 persons seated around one table you will start to lose the ability to have a single conversation — unless there’s a moderator, maybe, but that’s yet another type of meeting.
  • In most cases, there will be multiple conversations per table, as illustrated by the various other blue ovals above. To be precise, the number of simultaneous conversations per table is in the 1–5 range (not counting monologues, prayers, phone calls, and assuming there are neither cross-table conversations nor people engaging in multiple conversations at the same time).
  • People tend to have conversations in “groups” consisting of 2–5 (or maybe a few more) participants, mostly with people that are spatially close to them (for obvious, acoustic reasons).
  • Groups emerge spontaneously and can be expanded or reduced in size, merged with other groups, split into subgroups, and dissolved, without any central planning, based on the behaviors of the various actors.
  • People frequently switch between groups in their proximity (for any number of reasons).

What else?

  • Occasionally, people swap seats in order to join a farther away group, indicated by the violet arrows above (because the grass is always greener on the other side).
  • Depending on the room layout, groups may span across neighboring tables, although this may require a certain amount of physical suppleness (green oval).
  • People occasionally switch to another table, e.g. for the dessert or afterwards (red arrows).

How does the switching work?

For starters, it’s important to remember why people are able to have a conversation in a noisy restaurant in the first place. How can you understand what another person is saying when there are multiple other people yelling talking at the same time? The explanation is the well-known cocktail party effect, which describes the brain’s ability to focus on one auditory stimulus while filtering out a range of other stimuli. What’s important in the context of video conferencing is that the cocktail party effect requires stereo hearing. At a dinner event, your left ear and your right ear receive somewhat different audio signals, which the AI between your ears uses to localize sound sources. Unless you use ultra high-end telepresence systems that record and play audio Dolby-style, spatial information is completely missing from the audio that you receive in a video conference, which largely disables the cocktail party phenomenon (and is one of the reasons why video meetings and IRL meetings don’t quite feel the same yet).

Coming back to our networking dinner:

  • Because of the cocktail party effect, people are able to participate in the conversation of one group while hearing and capturing fragments of other groups’ conversations.
  • People may occasionally shift their attention to a neighboring groups’ conversation for a brief moment or they can use short breaks of their group’s conversation to “tune in” to neighboring groups’ conversations.
  • People can use what they’ve learned about neighboring groups’ conversations to decide if they want to leave their group and join another one.

Bringing the cocktail effect to video meetings

The above has shown that in order to replicate a networking dinner, the software needs to meet a few important requirements:

  1. The software needs to offer an equivalent to the “groups” I spoke about above. The closest thing to that in existing video conferencing software would be a “room” or “breakout room”, but I think “table” might be a better term, so I’ll use that here.
  2. People need to be able to receive cues about what’s going on at other tables. The trick is to find a mechanism to provide these cues in an unobtrusive, non-distracting way. Audio cues are likely to be too distracting, so listening in to another table’s conversation, even at a reduced volume, while following the conversation of one’s own table is probably not the right solution. Visual cues could work very well, however. Using speech recognition and a simple (tag cloud style) algorithm, I think the software would be able to provide useful cues.

People must be able to easily switch back and forth between tables.

A simple mockup might make it easier to see what I have in mind:

Bonus features:

  • Non-verbal visual cues (emojis!)
  • Option to mute/unmute all visual cues or selectively mute/unmute visual cues from specific tables (a big benefit over real dinner meetings).
  • Ability to get cues not only from neighboring tables but also from tables that are further away, filtered based on the user’s interests and preferences (this could make it possible to have meetings with 10x more participants than in the real world).
  • Being able to “tune in” to another conversation for a few moments.
  • Base initial seating order on users’ interests and preferences.
  • Optionally, there could be rules for joining tables (for example, someone joining a table could require a “thumbs up” vote of the majority of the people at that table).

The more I think about it, the more I believe that software has the potential to not only replicate but improve physical networking meetings that enable better, more meaningful conversations. What do you think? If someone has looked into this topic more thoroughly or if there are tools that I’m not aware of, please let me know!

PS: Here’s a comment from Nathan Benaich, who was kind enough to review a draft of this post, fix my broken English, and provide lots of great feedback:

Ouch. I’ve obviously heard about Clubhouse but I haven’t tried it yet, so I don’t know how much of what I described above already exists. Looks like I have to spend more time on VC Twitter. 😉


Bringing the cocktail effect to video meetings was originally published in Point Nine Land on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Are VCs Still Investing?


This post is curated by Keith Teare. It was written by Christoph Janz. The original is [linked here]

The state of fundraising in the spring of 2020, in 12 simple charts

At last week’s virtual SaaStr Summit I did a presentation about “Fundraising During a Pandemic”. If you’ve missed it and you’re interested in the topic, here’s a recording:

Given that we have a global pandemic and are likely heading into the deepest recession since World War II, it’s obviously not a great time to fundraise. At the same time, tech companies are better off than any other industry, and, to answer the question posed in the headline, VCs are still investing (we’re one of them). To try to get a better sense for the state of fundraising I went to Crunchbase, pulled some data on financing rounds of the two months, and compared the numbers to the same period in 2019.

As a caveat, the data in Crunchbase isn’t perfect. More importantly, there can be significant and varying delays between the closing and the announcement of a financing round. If we add the time it takes to get from signing a Term Sheet to closing a round we can assume that the Crunchbase data is lagging VC activity by at least a couple of weeks. But enough ado, let’s look at the data.

Data source for these and all other charts of this post: Crunchbase

Looking at these two charts only, it looks like the worst is behind us already. The number of deals dropped by almost 53% from April 2019 to April 2020 and continued to decrease in May 2020, but on a y/y basis, May 2020 looks much better than April 2020. What’s more, the US$ amount raised in May 2020 was larger than in May 2019! Apart from potential issues regarding data quality and reporting lag, it’s important to keep in mind that these charts show all deals, including what Crunchbase calls “corporate rounds”, debt financings, secondary transactions, as well as private equity financings, so the US$ amounts might be driven by some large PE deals.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably more interested in earlier-stage funding, so let’s look at that subset, starting with pre-seed/angel/seed investments:

What you can see here is that the number of pre-seed/angel/seed investments has fallen off a cliff:

  • In April 2020 seed/pre-seed deals were down more than 56% compared to April 2019.
  • May 2020 looks even worse, with a decline of more than 68% compared to May 2020 and more than 57% compared to April 2020.

If you look at the US$ amounts instead of the number of deals, the drop is significantly less pronounced, though. So interestingly, the average round size went up substantially. If we take a quick look at the median numbers we can see that the averages are not driven by a few outliers:

As you can see, the median seed round went up from April/May 2019 to April/May 2020. One possible interpretation is that only the strongest companies were willing and able to raise in the last two months and that these companies tend to raise bigger than average rounds, but I’m curious if there are other explanations for this finding.

Let’s look at what’s been happening at the Series A and Series B stage:

As you can see it’s a similar trend, but compared to pre-seed/angel/seed, the drops at Series A/B are somewhat smaller across the board. In particular, the y/y drop in the May 2020 deal count isn’t nearly as steep as for Series A/B as it is for pre-seed/angel/seed.

Let’s take a quick look at the median round sizes for Series As and Bs as well.

A similar picture again — with the exception of Series Bs in April, the y/y numbers are all up.

Let’s drill down even further and take a look at early-stage SaaS deals (tagged “SaaS” or “Cloud” in Crunchbase):

A few things that stand out here:

  • The amount of pre-seed/seed financing raised by SaaS startups has more than doubled from May 2019 to May 2020. I didn’t expect that.
  • The number of SaaS Series A/B deals was almost the same in May 2020 as it was in May 2019 (and increased sharply vs. April 2020).
  • The amount of Series A/B funding raised by SaaS startups fell by almost 65% y/y in April 2020 but increased in May 2020 and is not too far off from the amount in May 2019.

Last but not least, let’s try to find out if there are any major differences between SaaS and the rest of the industry that aren’t easy to see in the charts above. The visualization below shows the y/y change of the number of deals and the US$ amounts raised, for SaaS and for non-SaaS, at pre-seed/seed and Series A/B, for April and May:

As a SaaS aficionado like me, you might look at these lines and conclude that SaaS companies are leading the recovery, but given that the picture isn’t super clear and that there are various issues around data quality and sample size, you didn’t hear that from me. 😉


Are VCs Still Investing? was originally published in Point Nine Land on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Are VCs Still Investing?


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

The state of fundraising in the spring of 2020, in 12 simple charts

At last week’s virtual SaaStr Summit I did a presentation about “Fundraising During a Pandemic”. If you’ve missed it and you’re interested in the topic, here’s a recording:

Given that we have a global pandemic and are likely heading into the deepest recession since World War II, it’s obviously not a great time to fundraise. At the same time, tech companies are better off than any other industry, and, to answer the question posed in the headline, VCs are still investing (we’re one of them). To try to get a better sense for the state of fundraising I went to Crunchbase, pulled some data on financing rounds of the two months, and compared the numbers to the same period in 2019.

As a caveat, the data in Crunchbase isn’t perfect. More importantly, there can be significant and varying delays between the closing and the announcement of a financing round. If we add the time it takes to get from signing a Term Sheet to closing a round we can assume that the Crunchbase data is lagging VC activity by at least a couple of weeks. But enough ado, let’s look at the data.

Data source for these and all other charts of this post: Crunchbase

Looking at these two charts only, it looks like the worst is behind us already. The number of deals dropped by almost 53% from April 2019 to April 2020 and continued to decrease in May 2020, but on a y/y basis, May 2020 looks much better than April 2020. What’s more, the US$ amount raised in May 2020 was larger than in May 2019! Apart from potential issues regarding data quality and reporting lag, it’s important to keep in mind that these charts show all deals, including what Crunchbase calls “corporate rounds”, debt financings, secondary transactions, as well as private equity financings, so the US$ amounts might be driven by some large PE deals.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably more interested in earlier-stage funding, so let’s look at that subset, starting with pre-seed/angel/seed investments:

What you can see here is that the number of pre-seed/angel/seed investments has fallen off a cliff:

  • In April 2020 seed/pre-seed deals were down more than 56% compared to April 2019.
  • May 2020 looks even worse, with a decline of more than 68% compared to May 2020 and more than 57% compared to April 2020.

If you look at the US$ amounts instead of the number of deals, the drop is significantly less pronounced, though. So interestingly, the average round size went up substantially. If we take a quick look at the median numbers we can see that the averages are not driven by a few outliers:

As you can see, the median seed round went up from April/May 2019 to April/May 2020. One possible interpretation is that only the strongest companies were willing and able to raise in the last two months and that these companies tend to raise bigger than average rounds, but I’m curious if there are other explanations for this finding.

Let’s look at what’s been happening at the Series A and Series B stage:

As you can see it’s a similar trend, but compared to pre-seed/angel/seed, the drops at Series A/B are somewhat smaller across the board. In particular, the y/y drop in the May 2020 deal count isn’t nearly as steep as for Series A/B as it is for pre-seed/angel/seed.

Let’s take a quick look at the median round sizes for Series As and Bs as well.

A similar picture again — with the exception of Series Bs in April, the y/y numbers are all up.

Let’s drill down even further and take a look at early-stage SaaS deals (tagged “SaaS” or “Cloud” in Crunchbase):

A few things that stand out here:

  • The amount of pre-seed/seed financing raised by SaaS startups has more than doubled from May 2019 to May 2020. I didn’t expect that.
  • The number of SaaS Series A/B deals was almost the same in May 2020 as it was in May 2019 (and increased sharply vs. April 2020).
  • The amount of Series A/B funding raised by SaaS startups fell by almost 65% y/y in April 2020 but increased in May 2020 and is not too far off from the amount in May 2019.

Last but not least, let’s try to find out if there are any major differences between SaaS and the rest of the industry that aren’t easy to see in the charts above. The visualization below shows the y/y change of the number of deals and the US$ amounts raised, for SaaS and for non-SaaS, at pre-seed/seed and Series A/B, for April and May:

As a SaaS aficionado like me, you might look at these lines and conclude that SaaS companies are leading the recovery, but given that the picture isn’t super clear and that there are various issues around data quality and sample size, you didn’t hear that from me. 😉


Are VCs Still Investing? was originally published in Point Nine Land on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Loom: Love at first sight


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

There is this idea in the VC community that investors usually know after the first meeting (or maybe even after the first five minutes) if they want to invest in a company. According to that view, everything you do after that first meeting is to selectively collect evidence that supports your opinion (AKA confirmation bias).

There is some truth to that logic, but it is an exaggeration. More often than not, it takes much longer to understand a market, get to know the founders, and develop the conviction needed to make a large bet. And obviously, it happens all the time that investors are initially excited but end up passing based on their DD findings.

Every once in a while, though, you see a deck, try a product, or talk to a founder, and you know immediately that you just have to invest in this company. For us, one such case was Loom, which has just announced an extremely impressive ~ $29M Series B led by Sequoia and Coatue. Have a look at this Forbes story covering the news.

Joe, Vinay and Shahed, the founders of Loom, at various .9 Founder Summits

We’ve been using Zendesk as our deal-tracking system since early 2011, which gives us the benefit (and often the embarrassment) of being able to go back in time and take a look at our notes on every company we’ve looked at in the last nine years. By now we could probably fill a book with “famous last words” on cases that we got epically wrong. 😉

But let’s talk about a case where we got it right: Loom. When we found out about Loom in February 2017, we knew almost immediately that we wanted to invest. At least that’s how I remember it, but let’s take a look at our Zendesk ticket for Loom (ticket #17389). Here are some notes from that ticket:

As you can see from the timestamps above, we were actually quite slow initially. It took me a week to get back to Robin after he flagged it as “super interesting” (sorry Robin Dechant 🤷‍♂️🤦🙈). And truth to be told, there are about 50 comments in this Zendesk ticket that I have not pasted above, we did do some DD.

But all of us got super excited the moment we saw the product or talked to the founders. In that sense, it was true love at first sight.

Congrats, once again, Joe Thomas, Vinay, Shahed Khan, and all Loominaries. P9 ❤️ you.


Loom: Love at first sight was originally published in Point Nine Land on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

How to Get Press Coverage


This post is by Christoph Janz from The Angel VC

Startup PR for Dummies

Public Relations (PR) is not a high priority for most early-stage startups. If you keep in mind how many different hats founders have to wear in the early days to build a product, get customers, hire a team and raise money, you’ll understand why. However, I’ve seen plenty of founders miss out on PR opportunities like a funding announcement due to mistakes that would have been easy to avoid.

That’s sad because startups can benefit from media coverage in multiple ways. Coverage by the right publications can generate inbound leads from potential customers. Good PR can also make you look much bigger than you are, which can be useful when you’re talking to potential customers and partners. Finally, sometimes the biggest benefit of media coverage is that it can help with recruiting by spreading the word in the startup ecosystem and contributing to your employer brand.

Mike Butcher gets 500 emails a day. His advice on how to get his attention: Be a purple cow.

Some founders intuitively master PR immediately, but others don’t. If you think you might be in the second category and you want to increase your knowledge from zero to 101, then this post is for you. The caveat is that I’m not a PR expert by any means, so if you’re reading this and you think I got something wrong or if you have any suggestions, please let me know!

As a clarification, when I talk about PR in this post, it’s about how to obtain favorable media coverage on company news. I’m not talking about crisis management, lobbying, or other types of PR that are usually less relevant for early-stage tech startups. If you want to learn more about these aspects of PR you should talk to someone who knows much more about the topic than I do. I’m just trying to teach you a few basics on how to pitch to journalists so they’ll finally write about the cool stuff you’ve spent so much time building. 🙂

Remember that journalists are humans, too.

Try to put yourself into the shoes of the human on the other side. If you’re trying to pitch a writer of, say, TechCrunch, try to imagine what her job looks like, what her goals are, and how you can help her achieve those goals. I imagine that as a TechCrunch writer:

  • You are inundated with 100s of emails and press releases every day.
  • Your job is to quickly scan through haystacks of press releases, most of them sent to you by self-declared market leaders who all claim to revolutionize billion-dollar markets. Most of those press releases are filled with self-praise and unrealistic claims and are so full of buzzwords and jargon that (if you haven’t given up on taking a look at them yet) you cringe as you’re trying to go through them.
  • Your job is to find a needle in these haystacks. You’re looking for a new company or new product that makes for an interesting story for your audience. It needs to be an announcement that can be fact-checked within the few days that you have for the story. And of course, you want to be the first publication to write about the news.

Just by keeping this in mind and by trying to help the journalist achieve her goals, I believe you’ll avoid most mistakes, but let me add a few more practical tips.

1. Target the right people

Maybe this is too obvious even for a “Startup PR 101” post, but just to be sure: Target the right publications and the right writers at those publications. Before you reach out to potential customers or VCs you probably (hopefully!) do research to qualify them and to target the right person with the right message. Targeting journalists is no different. By checking out news archives you’ll quickly find out which writer covers which topics, which will help you avoid sending a consumer internet story to the security technology writer. Also, consider the regional aspect. If a journalist has already covered several companies in your country or region, it’s more likely that he or she is receptive. The more you know about the publications and the writers you’re trying to pitch, the better your chances.

2. Don’t waste money on mass distribution services

Circulating a press release using a distribution service like Business Wire or PR Newswire is completely useless. Maybe these services help larger companies to be found by journalists who monitor them. But as a startup, no one is looking for news on you, so you can save those expenses.

3. Leverage your network

Ask your investors if they have connections to journalists and ask them for intros. The fact that you’ve raised money often gives you credibility. If some people thought you were interesting enough to give money to, then some people are likely to find you interesting enough to read about too.

4. Build relationships ahead of time

If you can’t get a warm intro, try to build a relationship with the writer way before you’ll pitch him. Read his articles and leave thoughtful comments in the comments area. Try to engage with him on Twitter. Try to meet him at a conference. Try to be genuinely useful to him e.g. by offering him an introduction to someone you think he might be interested in talking to. Everything is better and more likely to work than an out-of-the-blue cold email.

5. No BS

Journalists are looking for purple cows, not their excrements. 😉

Because journalists are bombarded with news from companies that all claim to be the next big thing, they have highly sensitive bullshit antennas. Don’t make claims that you can’t back up with data and evidence. Don’t use superlatives unless you’re sure that they are warranted.

6. Keep it simple

Make sure that the background knowledge required to understand your press release is aligned with your audience (the journalist and the readers). Focus on one or two key messages, supported by some background information and few supporting messages. If you’re trying to convey too many things at the same time, there’s a high risk that you’ll lose your reader and will end up conveying nothing at all.

Neil Murray, the founder of The Nordic Web, was kind enough to review a draft of this post and commented:

“I’d suggest keeping the press release to a one-pager, with three bullet points at the top with the main points you want to get across and then 3–4 paragraphs elaborating on them, including a bit of background on you as a team and a quote or two from an investor and/or a customer.”

7. Make it easy for them

Make the job of the journalists as easy as possible. If you give them text snippets that are well-written and free of self-praise, they might be able to include some of them almost using copy & paste. A good test is: Try to imagine if your story could be published almost as-is in the publications you’re targeting. If you read your draft and get the feeling it could never be published by someone who is trying to cover your story in an objective way, there’s probably something wrong and you should redo it.

8. Consider giving someone an exclusive and try to create some urgency

Giving a journalist “an exclusive”, i.e. the opportunity to be the first one to “break the news”, makes it much more attractive for him or her to write about you. You can obviously give that exclusive to only one journalist, but especially in the early days, you might have to use this trick to gain any coverage at all. If you go for it you can still pitch other journalists beforehand, but you have to embargo the press release for them.

To this point, Neil Murray added:

“It’s also completely OK to be upfront about this, flatter them by saying you are taking this to them first but that you need a response within 48 hours whether they are interested otherwise you will have to take it elsewhere. I’d suggest creating some level of urgency. This will also lead to a definite answer and as we know in fundraising, a no is better than a maybe.”

9. Tell them how much you’ve raised

If you’re announcing a funding round, journalists will ask you how much capital you’ve raised. In most cases, my recommendation is to disclose the amount or at least give the journalists an approximate number. If an early-stage startup says “undisclosed”, journalists will typically hear “small amount” and become less interested in covering you. Also, if you don’t provide a number there’s a risk that someone will make one up, and once a rumored amount makes it into a news article somewhere, it will often get repeated by others.

If a journalist pushes you for details that you’re not comfortable disclosing, e.g. your revenue numbers, politely decline to answer. Consider giving him or her a range or try to shift his or her attention to another relevant number (“we’re not disclosing any revenue numbers at this point in time, but what I can say is that we have more than 10,000 signups from more than 50 countries”).

10. Write a founder blog post

Because press releases are so overused, my guess is that many journalists have become averse to the typical press release format and style. Therefore I think it’s worth considering writing a “founder blog post” instead of the classical press release, as a blog post by the founders comes across much more authentic and personal. I asked Mike Butcher, Editor At Large at TechCrunch, for feedback about this question, and his response was:

“I think ‘founder blog posts’ are generally useless UNLESS it comes AFTER you have had press coverage which you can then refer to.”

So press releases aren’t dead yet, after all.

11: Come up with a great story

Last but definitely not least, keep in mind that what the media wants is great stories. Given how many startups there are, it’s likely that there are several companies that are doing something similar or at least superficially similar to you, so you’ll have to find a way to stand out. The fact that you have a nice product and that you’ve raised a VC round doesn’t necessarily make your announcement newsworthy in the eyes of a journalist, so try to find a unique, exciting angle. If you can link your announcement to a big event, news story, or current discussion in the industry (AKA news hijacking), that’s even better!

PS: When I asked Mike Butcher if he could take a look at a draft of this post, he sent me a video of a presentation he gave at a startup conference a couple of years ago. Take a look.


Continue reading “How to Get Press Coverage”

How to Get Press Coverage


This post is by Christoph Janz from Point Nine Land - Medium

Startup PR for Dummies

Public Relations (PR) is not a high priority for most early-stage startups. If you keep in mind how many different hats founders have to wear in the early days to build a product, get customers, hire a team and raise money, you’ll understand why. However, I’ve seen plenty of founders miss out on PR opportunities like a funding announcement due to mistakes that would have been easy to avoid.

That’s sad because startups can benefit from media coverage in multiple ways. Coverage by the right publications can generate inbound leads from potential customers. Good PR can also make you look much bigger than you are, which can be useful when you’re talking to potential customers and partners. Finally, sometimes the biggest benefit of media coverage is that it can help with recruiting by spreading the word in the startup ecosystem and contributing to your employer brand.

Mike Butcher gets 500 emails a day. His advice on how to get his attention: Be a purple cow.

Some founders intuitively master PR immediately, but others don’t. If you think you might be in the second category and you want to increase your knowledge from zero to 101, then this post is for you. The caveat is that I’m not a PR expert by any means, so if you’re reading this and you think I got something wrong or if you have any suggestions, please let me know!

As a clarification, when I talk about PR in this post, it’s about how to obtain Continue reading “How to Get Press Coverage”

What does it take to raise capital, in SaaS, in 2019?


This post is curated by Keith Teare. It was written by Christoph Janz. The original is [linked here]

What does it take to raise capital, in SaaS, in 2019?

👈🏼In case you like the napkin … upvoting is free. 🙂

Two weeks ago we released the 2019 edition of our (in)famous SaaS Funding Napkin. If you were in Paris to attend SaaStr Europa, went to our CTO meetup, or joined us for our Café Hours, you might be holding one in your hands already (unless you’ve used it to dry your tears). Everyone else can download a free digital copy or request the real thing on www.saasnapkin.com.

If you’re wondering what napkin I’m talking about, here’s the backstory. In 2016 I thought about the question of what it takes to raise capital, in SaaS, in 2016 and tried to give an answer that would fit on the proverbial back of a napkin. At first, it was just a virtual napkin, but since Continue reading “What does it take to raise capital, in SaaS, in 2019?”

Why Branding Matters for VCs

Nobody ever got fired for signing a Term Sheet from Benchmark or Sequoia

As hinted by Louis, we’re currently going through a bit of a soul-searching exercise here at Point Nine Capital. It was triggered by the fact that our logo, website, and overall visual identity has become pretty outdated (and was never amazing in the first place). It’s never been a top priority for us as our core job is to find great companies and help them become even better. That hasn’t changed and will never change, and Benchmark’s website proves that you don’t have to have a great website (or any website at all) to be an excellent investor. But we’re not Benchmark (yet 😜) and lots of founders have never heard about us, which is why we’re putting in more effort to have a website that explains who we are, what we do, and how we work.

Continue reading “Why Branding Matters for VCs”